Generative Design

The future of CAD

Form Finding

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Structural form finding is not new. It has been practiced for centuries by sensible builders who sought to optimize the use of materials and push possibilities to new limits. Roman arches, aqueducts and gothic cathedrals testify to this with their grace, efficiency and elegance. In ancient architecture, great structural design accompanied great design: one shaped the other. But things took a different turn when the profession of engineering emerged,  taking away from architecture critical knowledge about the shaping of form.

Joris Laarman's Design

Early Victorian engineers however, created sensible and elegant forms – out of simple equations. But soon the fine art of structural design  was obfuscated  with the language of mathematical analysis,  landing it securely in the hands of engineers.  Continuing developments  in material strength, fabrication technologies and lately computer aided analysis bought back control into to the hands of architects, who had by then  lost the knowledge of structural design, which was replaced by curricula and code accompanied by jubilation of what can be now done.  They are heavily reliant  on the capabilities of a few engineering firms that can  make any ridiculous shape stand up, at massive expense and some risk to. So, we are now in show business and the challenge then is to drive this show with structural sense.

Feri Otto manged to succeed in this. So did Buckminster Fuller. Calatrava’s  work goes  in this direction, but its  exuberant thins out its structural efficiency. Other great works of structural art remain hidden in cars and landing gears un known of and unheard of operating silently and efficiently. We get only excited when it is intentionally elevated into design, especially when its forms are pleasing. Joris Laarman is working in this direction taking a leaf out of Antonio Guadi’s book. Guadi was a fanatic form finder. When we found that forces from his towers hit the ground at an angle, he tilted his columns accordingly. It’s refreshing to see, once again,  new work that is inspired by the flow of forces made possible by advances in rapid prototyping technologies.  These forms may not be the easiest to fabricate but they point in the right direction – that the flow of force has generative capabilities. It is this very capacity, that shapes our bones, our muscles and all things that are living.

Such designs bring to our attention the fundamental contradiction between Euclidean forms (still thought by many to be ideal) and optimal natural forms which are phenomenally more efficient. It exposes the irrationality of the rational movement in architecture that made us believe in the efficiencies of inefficient form. So, once again, nature presents us an opportunity to learn how its structural genius may  result in pleasing forms.

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Written by Sivam Krish

March 11, 2010 at 2:26 am

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